Tuesday, 20 November 2012

7 Secrets of Suspense by Bruce Hale - Part 1

This is Part 1 of the talk by Bruce Hale I went to on 30 October (I know it's late). So here it is:

What is suspense? Anxiety you get when you know something's about to happen.

If it's a picture book, it must be a page turner.
Have an engine that drives the story - get reader asking what happens next - the stakes. Give them a feeling that something vital is at risk. What the character has to gain/lose. 

Eg. Bomb under the table. Terror in anticipation of it.A ticking under the table. Have character shout 'Don't sit down.'

Leading up to it and drawing it longer.

1. Start with character. Make the reader care about them, then put them in danger. Let flaws show. What do they want - drive. What is preventing them getting it. What is their trait that will trip them up (desire). Reason they are in scene. Make it personal. Give them a secret. Keep wanting to come up at inappropriate moment.

2. Set the hook. Concept. First page to grab reader. And end of chapter. Sets up suspense. Just enough, not too much. Clues here and there. Humour. Surprise, plunge into action. Question. Foreshadowing.

3. UP the uh-oh factor. Raise the stakes. More danger the better. Make it worse. Simple reveals. How can I make it worse? Going bad to worse. If going well, then reverse it. Microtension  - moment by moment tension that keeps you reading. Conflicting emotion.

4. Thicken the plot. Make it complicated, emotionally. Ticking clock eg think Back to the Future. Deadline with consequence. Do the unexpected. Keep reader guessing. Put in a twist. Foreshadow. Pacing - weave your writing. Better writing. Breathe then adventure.

5. Merrily misdirect. Plant clues to lead to wrong answer.

6. Conceal and reveal. Employ imagination. Think what happens next.

7. Take a tip from Frank (Sinatra) - Do it your way.

That was the 7 secrets Bruce mentioned. Throughout the talk I kept getting ideas how to improve the current ms I was working on .  Part 2 will be on Thursday, when I shall tell you the rest of the talk and what the exercise we did that day and how it helped me.

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